Food: Reflections on the downside of a warm spring
Remember last year right about now? This question has been a frequent one I’ve heard lately.
Of course, most everyone making this inquiry is speaking of the weather conditions, comparing what looks like a slow introduction to spring this year, to last year’s March “madness” that topped the 70s and even 80s about this time, when all the snow and cold seemed to melt away overnight.
But regardless of the weather, there is another reason why I will always celebrate this time of year. One year ago, I adopted my little dog Homey. That day will be ingrained in my brain until I pass from this world. I was to meet this little black and tan weiner dog and his foster parents at Hodag Park in Rhinelander, and admittedly I was a little nervous.
But it was a glorious day. In fact, I arrived early, and I ate a sandwich at a picnic table down by the boat landing, watching robins peck along in the grass and a pair of ducks paddle languidly in a spot where the ice was retreating rapidly. I still relish that day and can recall vividly the carefree fling of my winter jacket to the back seat of my Jeep and reveling in the warm breeze coming off the lake that made me lift my nose in reverie. I’ll never tire of the aroma of a body of water coming alive once again after months of frozen stillness; that delicate, aquatic fragrance that seems to still the soul and lift the spirits, all at once. And then Homey arrived and burst forth on his leash like a creature released from the bonds of tight confinement and I knew just how he felt.
I will never complain when northern Wisconsin is lucky enough to experience a spring like last year, but as I have also learned, there are heavy prices to pay when warm weather comes unnaturally early, especially this time of year when a 70-degree day can be followed by a 10-inch snow storm the next.
I learned that first-hand when I went to do a story at Wild Instincts, a wildlife rehabilitation facility just outside of Rhinelander. My friend Mark Naniot, who is the director of this facility, was more than concerned with the amount of migrating songbirds that were being turned in. They were underweight and frightfully weak. “When we get warm weather so early, the birds migrate up here because there is food like bugs for them to eat,” he explained. “And then we get another freeze or it snows and their food source dies and they can starve.”
These after-the-warm-weather-freezes also do a number on plants, and again I experienced that first- hand with my cherry trees. They bloomed quickly in the warmth of March and then all their blossoms shriveled and fell with one early April frost. Even my lilac bushes had decidedly fewer blossoms at the end of May.
This phenomenon took its toll on the apple crop, too. Every year I look forward to my good buddy Jim Kudek bringing loads of delicious apples to Lake Tomahawk to sell at his roadside stand in the fall. He did not have any apples at all last year and for me that was a big disappointment. “My trees blossomed too early with the warm weather in March and then all the blossoms froze in April,” he lamented. “But it was a great year for garlic.”
So you see, there are some down times to early warm weather; however, I know that will never squash the yearnings of the pale northern Wisconsin people who right about this time of year get a little stir- crazy waiting for warmer temps. To honor that, I’ve included a smoothie recipe that is sure to put a “spring” in your step regardless of the conditions outside.
But as Homey and I sit in our favorite chair, watching yet any cold and snowy day dawn, we know it is only a matter of time before robins are once again pecking in the front yard; that the call of loons will soon be echoing over the lakes; that grilling and outside picnics will be the norm; and windows can be flung open to let out the stuffiness of winter and the warm spring breezes in. I can’t wait.
- 1 cup frozen bananas (freeze as thin rounds)
- 1 1/4 cups milk
- 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
- 3/4 cup frozen strawberries
- 1/2 cup frozen peaches
- 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1 Tbs. maple syrup
- 1/2 cup ice
Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until creamy, then pour and serve.